Was the Battle of Alberta a Disappointment?

Photo courtesy of Perry Nelson, USA Today Sports under fair dealing

On February 1, 2020, a line brawl erupted on the ice between the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers. At the time, it was the most exciting the rivalry between the two teams, known as the “Battle of Alberta,” had been in recent memory. So when it was determined that the two teams would meet in the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs for their first playoff meeting since 1991, fans were excited to see what was in store. The Oilers won the best-of-seven series in five games, dominating for much of the final four. So was this long-awaited Battle of Alberta actually a disappointment considering the expectations?

The opening of the series did not disappoint, with an astounding 15 goals between the two teams in Game 1, which the Flames won 9-6. It was the highest-scoring NHL playoff game since 1993. Considering that the goaltenders of both teams were on hot streaks in their previous playoff round, this led many fans to expect the remainder of the series to be wild. Game 2 was slightly more tame compared to the first, with the Oilers winning 5-3. Evander Kane’s hat trick led the Oilers to a 4-1 win in Game 3, and they continued to dominate with another 5-3 win in Game 4, putting the Flames on the brink of elimination.

Game 5 was not without controversy, much like many other playoff games. At 14:03 in the third period, Blake Coleman scored to give the Flames a 5-4 lead, but the puck went off of his skate. The goal was reviewed and then disallowed, with the conclusion that Coleman intentionally kicked the puck into the net (the infamous rule that states a goal cannot be scored off of a “distinct kicking motion”). Was it the right call? That’s up for debate; although the puck did go off of Coleman’s skate, he was also being pushed into the net by Oilers defenceman Cody Ceci. Right or wrong, the game remained tied through the end of regulation, and Connor McDavid would score the series winner in overtime to eliminate the Flames. 

Considering how much the Flames impressed this season – 50 wins, 111 points, and first in the Pacific Division (7 points ahead of the second-place Oilers) – they were favoured to go far in the playoffs, and in some predictions, this included winning the Battle of Alberta. However, looking at the stats from the series that was, it’s clear the Oilers dominated. Saying their star players performed would be an understatement; Leon Draisaitl finished the series with 17 points, while Connor McDavid had 12. It wasn’t only up to their stars either, with Zach Hyman particularly on a hot streak, scoring in all five games. The highest point total on the Flames at the end of the series was 8, belonging to both Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk.

The bottom line was that the Flames couldn’t shut down the Oilers stars, who knew how to deal with goaltender Jacob Markström. Not only that, but the Oilers were the better team at playing physical. Noted “pest” Milan Lucic of the Flames only had 15 penalty minutes throughout the series, all of which were in Game 3. If he couldn’t get something started, then no one else on the Flames could.

Overall, although this series likely could have been more exciting, it at least gives fans something to look forward to when the Flames and Oilers inevitably meet again. After all, it still adds fuel to the rivalry that’s been revived in recent years. A good rivalry is good for the sport because it gets people excited to watch, and hockey needs more of that.

Should the series have gone on longer? Would it have gone differently if Blake Coleman’s goal had counted and the Flames won Game 5? Was the Battle of Alberta a disappointment? These questions, and all other opinions on how the series played out (or should have played out), are largely up to fan debate on Twitter now. In the end, it seems that the Battle of Alberta can only go up from here.


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